Zach White — simply the best
As the seconds slid off the clock and it became increasingly clear that the Milford Co-op hockey teams’ season was about to end, the team’s leading scorer, Zach White, was still digging in the corners.
He was still looking for one last sliver of a chance to net yet another goal in order to extend what had been a brilliant career just one game farther.
That opportunity, however, never developed as No. 2 seed Amity Regional team knocked the 11th-seed Indians out of the CIAC Division II tourney with a 5-4 victory in the semifinals at Yale University’s Ingalls Rink. Milford’s Cinderalla-like ride to a title game was over.
As he skated off the ice, joining his teammates and the coaching staff in a locker room, White had to realize that his four-year effort had produced some eye-popping results.
One game before, as the Indians kept their upset run going with a 3-1 quarterfinal round win over No. 4 seed Branford, White picked up two assists, bringing his career point total to 200.
Because there aren’t any official high school hockey records kept in Connecticut, there’s no way to know how many players have reached that plateau. Most seasoned followers of the sport believe there has only been a handful.
With two goals and one assist against Amity as the Indians finished with a 13-9-1 record, White closed things out with 203 points on 95 goals and 108 assists.
Along the way, he surpassed both Rich Pocock (155) and Matt Walter (169) in becoming his teams’ all-time leading scorer.
As he spoke to a collection of sportswriters, Milford coach Sal Follo was asked to sum up what White meant to his program. He led with one, simple word — “Everything. From every practice to every game, ne never stopped working. He never stopped looking to get better.
“I’m just sorry that we couldn’t win tonight and give that kid along with our other players a chance to play for a title.”
White is the ultimate team player, according to teammate Ben Lavallee, like White, a converted defenseman.
“He loves getting assists,” said Lavallee, who was moved up to the line and also teams with the hard-hitting and hard-shooting Will Vitelli. “He takes great delight in setting us up. Zach’s biggest asset is his vision. He sees the ice so well.
“Our line clicks because we all have our little niche on it. Zach’s a scorer; Will’s a great hitter and I try to be the playmaker, to set both of them up because they each have great shots.”
As a team, Milford scored 86 goals this year and added 101 assists. Between the three of them, White, Vitelli and Lavallee combined for 125 of the Indians’ 187 points.
“We needed to find a player to fill a spot on that line and Ben proved to be the perfect one,” Follo said. “They complement each other so well.”
The Co-op team gets its players from Foran, Jonathan Law and Platt Tech.
White, Vitelli and Lavallee all attend Foran, where White has also played football and has already begun his third season on the school’s lacrosse team.
As a freshman four years ago, White scored 10 goals and added 23 assists (for 33 points) before improving those totals to 20 and 33 as a sophomore, and on to 30 and 31 as a junior.
He began his senior year with 147 points, eight shy of Pocock and within 15 of Walter.
At 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds, it doesn’t appear that White would be that strong on the surface.
“He’s very deceptive for his size,” Follo said. “He’s strong on his skates, has great balance and end-to-end speed.
“Throw in outstanding stick-handling skills and the ability to split a team’s defense and you can see why he’s a weapon.”
White was on skates by the time he was two, taking shots at his older brother (by two years) Matt, a former Milford Co-op goalie.
“I got the love for this game and the influence to play it from my brother and from my grandfather (Herb Diener),” he said.
White first played youth hockey in West Haven before becoming a member of the Southern Stars in the Milford Youth program.
Along the way, his parents Dawn and Ted have been there for him.
White has been accepted at Sacred Heart University, which has a Division I collegiate program. He does plan to play a year or two of junior hockey first and his future plans include being a nurse. “I get that from my mom,” he said.
There’s still quite a bit of hockey to play, however, before he again begins assisting others.
White never got to see Walter play scholastically, where he was part of the 2001-02 team that made it to the Division II finals before losing to Ridgefield, 8-3. But he did get an impression.
“I used to run the clock for a men’s league in Milford and Matt played there,” White said. “I could still see that he had the skills to play well, When I got to high school, everybody told me how good a player he was. I told myself I wanted to be that good, or better.”